3D printing of PCBs is possible  

  RSS
yalan.l
(@yalan-l)
New Member

I just saw this picture about PCB 3D printing on a website. I want to analyze that it can it work in real life. It's would be so cool, if it could useful in the real life.

I have recently seen an entire speaker built using a multimaterial 3D printer. In the future, it will certainly be possible to print 3D circuits and electromagnetic components (like motors: http://www.kynix.com/Product/Cate/757.html ) inside products without planning for any openings. A real breakthrough for applications which pay a lot of money for seals, for example. It may also replace the flex-rigid circuits which allow you to have PCBs with bends (to wrap a camera with PCBs for example).

However, nowadays parts made of multiple materials require either a 3D printer which automatically switches between materials (we are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars), or which stops and allows the material to be changed before proceeding with the rest of the part. Note that you cannot even use any material: although plastics and resins are dead-easy, and metals require different techniques (e.g. powder fusing using a laser) generally but can be done very reliably if you throw the money on the table, I am not aware of any proven method (other than very early prototypes) to print fiberglass or polyimide therefore your PCBs will have to be thicker than existing PCBs, will not handle temperature as well or will have a lower breakdown voltage (and therefore a higher creepage distance at high voltage) for example. On top of that, there is the plating to improve the mating of connectors and the soldering. You may not realise this, but existing laminates are very advanced, and use materials which are not ready for printing yet. It is not necessary in all industries and certainly not for domestic use, though.

Property of materials are one thing, and precision is another. The current process to build PCBs is EXTREMELY accurate. Even the cheap PCB houses out there can do tens of 12-18um layers, perfectly round vias of 0.1mm in diameter, tracks as thin as 0.1mm and spaced y 0.1mm, with shapes so accurate you will never see any difference with your CAD view zoomed 10 times and a microscope of the same magnification (I've never had any acid traps issues). It may sound like overkill, but it isn't. You may not need tens of layers, but 0.1mm spacing is very common in dense circuits including surface mounted components and you don't want your 45° mitres to short with adjacent lines.

Finally, I expect the build time to be higher. Photolithography, acid etching etc. form a relatively quick process and the assembly lines are laid out such that the throughput is very high: dip tens of PCBs in a bucket, move it over to another one, while another panel takes its place. Time is money when it comes to production. I would not buy a cutting edge 3D printer that builds 25 PCBs in 3 hours when I can build hundreds in the same time using widespread machinery and chemicals.

When that technology is ready, it will be very good news to many applications (though I suspect, not all of them). In the meantime, it is just not worth it.

Posted : 21/12/2017 9:57 am
kursat.u
(@kursat-u)
Eminent Member

Here are related gadget's I know of.
- https://www.botfactory.co/page/homepage
- Used their ink, pretty good.
https://www.elephantech.co.jp/en/#contact
- PCB printing on a 3D substrate
http://www.pcb-pool.com/ppuk/info_pcbpool_3d_mid.html

...
Posted : 28/12/2017 10:29 pm
jiangann34
(@jiangann34)
New Member

good article, thank you so much for sharing it

Posted : 18/05/2020 11:45 am
Karl Herbert
(@karl-herbert)
Famed Member
Posted by: @yalan-l

I just saw this picture about PCB 3D printing on a website. I want to analyze that it can it work in real life. It's would be so cool, if it could useful in the real life.

I have recently seen an entire speaker built using a multimaterial 3D printer. In the future, it will certainly be possible to print 3D circuits and electromagnetic components (like motors: http://www.kynix.com/Product/Cate/757.html ) inside products without planning for any openings. A real breakthrough for applications which pay a lot of money for seals, for example. It may also replace the flex-rigid circuits which allow you to have PCBs with bends (to wrap a camera with PCBs for example).

However, nowadays parts made of multiple materials require either a 3D printer which automatically switches between materials (we are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars), or which stops and allows the material to be changed before proceeding with the rest of the part. Note that you cannot even use any material: although plastics and resins are dead-easy, and metals require different techniques (e.g. powder fusing using a laser) generally but can be done very reliably if you throw the money on the table, I am not aware of any proven method (other than very early prototypes) to print fiberglass or polyimide therefore your PCBs will have to be thicker than existing PCBs, will not handle temperature as well or will have a lower breakdown voltage (and therefore a higher creepage distance at high voltage) for example. On top of that, there is the plating to improve the mating of connectors and the soldering. You may not realise this, but existing laminates are very advanced, and use materials which are not ready for printing yet. It is not necessary in all industries and certainly not for domestic use, though.

Property of materials are one thing, and precision is another. The current process to build PCBs is EXTREMELY accurate. Even the cheap PCB houses out there can do tens of 12-18um layers, perfectly round vias of 0.1mm in diameter, tracks as thin as 0.1mm and spaced y 0.1mm, with shapes so accurate you will never see any difference with your CAD view zoomed 10 times and a microscope of the same magnification (I've never had any acid traps issues). It may sound like overkill, but it isn't. You may not need tens of layers, but 0.1mm spacing is very common in dense circuits including surface mounted components and you don't want your 45° mitres to short with adjacent lines.

Finally, I expect the build time to be higher. Photolithography, acid etching etc. form a relatively quick process and the assembly lines are laid out such that the throughput is very high: dip tens of PCBs in a bucket, move it over to another one, while another panel takes its place. Time is money when it comes to production. I would not buy a cutting edge 3D printer that builds 25 PCBs in 3 hours when I can build hundreds in the same time using widespread machinery and chemicals.

When that technology is ready, it will be very good news to many applications (though I suspect, not all of them). In the meantime, it is just not worth it.

Very interesting article, but until it is so far I still finish my layouts in this old and proven way:

 

This post was modified 4 weeks ago by Karl Herbert
Statt zu klagen, dass wir nicht alles haben, was wir wollen, sollten wir lieber dankbar sein, dass wir nicht alles bekommen, was wir verdienen....
Posted : 10/07/2020 7:47 pm
registration-1
(@registration-1)
New Member

The Voxel8 was suppose to be able to do this and not only 2D but 3D circuits...not sure what happened to it....

This post was modified 7 days ago by registration-1
Posted : 01/08/2020 1:30 am
jsw
 jsw
(@jsw)
Reputable Member

I would love to have a quick and convenient way of doing one-off PC boards, but it seems like all of those 'conductive' filaments do have a significant resistance.

Lately I've been doing circuits either on perf board or just by assembling them onto those cheap proto boards and mounting those in place.

Back when I worked in the Biomed Lab at UNMC, we actually had a fairly nice PC Board production setup.  Drafting was done with a program called Smartwork and we had a tank for etching, which one of the guys made out of a large fish tank and an all-plastic pump which could handle the corrosive etchants.  We could do double-sided boards for Z80 SBCs and the like.  This was ca. 1980s.

Posted : 01/08/2020 1:57 am
bobstro
(@bobstro)
Illustrious Member

One of my big disappointments since getting into 3D printing has been the slow progress with 3d printed circuit boards. I just need simple single or double-sided designs. Just not a fan of etching. 

My notes and disclaimers on 3D printing and miscellaneous other tech projects
He is intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two dimensional thinking. -- Spock in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan...
Posted : 01/08/2020 2:21 am
h.waibel
(@h-waibel)
Trusted Member

@registration-1

You made me curious there, so I had a quick look at their website. Not a single word left from the claims in the promo video. They have now shifted to printing shoes.

Lot's of buzzwords, slick web design, minimal web store with most of the 8 consumables for sale marked as "sold out"... do I smell a self filling water bottle here?

Posted : 01/08/2020 11:43 pm
Share:

Please Login or Register